What a difference a week fails to make. Basically, we had a pretty good idea what the conference title and CFP pictures were shaping up to be at this time last week, and they’re now pretty much what we expected.
That doesn’t eat at all into the thrills and chills we anticipate this weekend. We already have a couple of puzzle pieces clicked into place, with Northern Illinois edging out hot-running Buffalo (“unexpectedly”) for the MAC title, and Washington knocking off Utah to take the PAC-12 and seal its slot in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual. We’ve seldom seen a more boring game for a conference championship (other than Kyle Whittingham’s shocked face on the interference no-call, which is one for the record books), and will merely congratulate both teams and move on.
We have the world’s best Inner Circle, bar none. We don’t have the inside scoop on all the bowl vulnerabilities yet, but we’ll give you what we have.
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The University of Tulsa, which beat Notre Dame 28-27 on 30 October 2010, has played its final down for this season, with a big win over SMU to finish 3-9. Congratulations to the Golden Hurricane for rebuilding like a house afire.
#5 Oklahoma hits the turf in Arlington Saturday morning to play #14 Texas for the Big 12 championship. OU is giving 7.5, Sooner bettors sensing that one loss to Texas in a season is all the universe will allow. There aren’t as many permutations for the CFP and bowl picture as it sounds like when the sportsbabblers are in full rant; basically, although it sucks to be Notre Dame on this particular weekend, when everyone else in serious contention gets to participate in the swimsuit competition, there’s no way Alabama doesn’t get to the Final Four (even with a loss to Georgia), and the only real likelihood of squeezing out the Arsh would be if Oklahoma and Ohio State could play each other and draw real blood. Since they can’t, and Clemson is therefore the potential wild card, and catarrh goes flying when you think of Clemson losing to Pitt in the ACC match, it all keeps coming down to Alabama playing either Oklahoma or Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, and Clemson and Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.
But anything can happen. If Georgia should beat Alabama, it’s OU and OSU who’ll lose out. Final four, in that event, and with a Clemson win: Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame. That’s our story, and as usual, we’re sticking to it.
Oklahoma State finished the season 6-6, having done the key service to peoplekind of defeating both Texas and West Virginia. They have their uses, those Cowboys. On to the Booger Bowls for a fine selection; we’re dying here from the possibility being whispered that OK-State will get to play in the Cheez-It Bowl. That’s an auspicious galactic alignment that you don’t see more often than at least 1,280,000 years. Ice cores don’t even go back that far, much less tree rings.
Navy still has The Game to fight next weekend, but is out of bowl contention for 2018. We congratulate the Mids on a great learning and rebuilding experience of their own.
Army continues to marinate in days and days of time off, preparing at their leisure for The Game. They’re bowl eligible and we fully expect to see them grace a top-quality Booger; the current rumor is the Southern Armed Forces Bowl (we’ll explain later).
Air Force gave it a heck of a go, finishing the season 5-7 and out of the Booger Run. Congrats to the Falcons for some big wins.
Virginia Tech is 5-6 after the cardiac win over the Yahoos, and – all stop – will have one more shot at 6 on Saturday hosting C-USA’s Marshall. Both teams need to make up games canceled due to hurricane impacts in September. (VT’s original game was with East Carolina, but ECU is playing NC State (motto: “They have a football team?”) for the Pirates’ make-up expedition.) Marshall comes in 8-3 off a three-win streak; the Hokies give 3.5. All the best to them. We can’t imagine a bowl season without VT.
Nevada may have lost the Cannon, but they finish the season 7-5, bowl eligible, and second in the MWC West. Right now the good word is the New Mexico Bowl. Not bad for a Wolf Pack that started the season with relatively low hopes from even its biggest fans. Great job, Pack.
#10 LSU looks likely to go to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, after the heartbreak loss to A&M and finishing the season 9-3. Congratulations to the Zouave contingent!
Kansas State missed it by that much, turning in a 5-7 record on a tough but rewarding rebuilding season. They’ll be back to battle again. Good job, ‘Cats.
TCU sneaked in that final win to finish 6-6 and take its bowl eligibility for a spin, probably in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl. No flies on getting to play Auburn in a bowl game, for sure. Nicely done, Frogs.
Toledo finished 7-5 with the thumping win over Central Michigan, and heads off to the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, which we couldn’t love more if it made sense. We’ll ‘splain you the whole Elk Grove thing later. The Rockets will be taking on Florida International, while Nassau holds its usual competition with Honolulu to see which one has the superior bowl-day weather.
Wyoming leads from the rear of the Inner Circle procession, sprinting to a 6-6 finish with the big wins over Air Force and New Mexico. The Cowboys are third in MWC Mountain, and aren’t rumored for a bowl slot right now. But we’ll keep you updated. We say if there’s a Cheez-It Bowl, there needs to be a Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Bowl, and somebody’s gotta play in it.
All eyes will be on #1 Alabama going head to head with #4 Georgia for the SEC crown. We shot our wad on the Power 5/CFP commentary up under the Oklahoma entry, so hum the refrain to yourselves as necessary. Tide gives 14.
#2 Clemson gives 27.5 in the ACC championship game with Pitt.
#3 Notre Dame, lonely Independent, sits out the weekend.
#6 Ohio State bucks for a shot at the Final Four, taking on #21 Northwestern for the Big X title. Buckeyes are favored by 14.
#7 Michigan looks down the road to a bowl nod, probably the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl with #9 Florida.
#8 Central Florida sees action against Memphis for the American Athletic Conference championship in Orlando. The UCF give is kind of all over the place, but is in the region of a TD or less. The Golden Knights are likely to cover that much, even though Memphis can jump out at you from behind a bush.
Best of the rest
On a weekend like this it’s all good, and if we weren’t committed to the Big 12 title game, believe you me, we’d be glued to Drake (FCS, Pioneer) at Iowa State. The two of them need to get well from canceled-early-season games, and wisely hooked up with each other, both being Iowa born and bred.
Akron at South Carolina (motto: The Other USC) is likewise a get-well make-up, all fresh and unexpected, and we’re pleased to inform you that there’s a healthy line on it with SC giving 29.5.
Far and away our favorite match of the day is Norfolk State (FCS, MEAC) at Liberty, a modern-traditional clash of Virginia teams that is now a cross-ranks scheduling nightmare. It’s Spartans and Flames, in case you don’t keep up with these things.
The Mountain West will duke it out Saturday evening with #25 Fresno State at #22 Boise State for the championship game. Boys Estate gives a modest 1.
The Conference-USA championship sees UA-Birmingham at Middle Tennessee for a grudge re-match, after Middle Tennessee knocked UAB off in a 27-3 drubbing last week. There’s a line on it, but just barely; MTSU’s Blue Raiders are giving 1.
Of course, the Sun Belt has to have its go, which will occur simultaneously with the Big 12 game and thus minimize our viewing of U-LA-LA’s Ragin’ Cajuns and Appalachian State. The Mountaineers are favored by 17, but we’re hopeful that the game will afford more excitement than that.
Oh, and Stanford will be at Cal to continue the Storied Rivalry for their delicate little axe (the one they had to give up and mount on wood For Your Safety And Comfort. The True Axe – Paul Bunyan’s – was toted home by Minnesota in its win over Wisconsin last week). The Festive Fuchsia gives 3.5; we think it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Cal ballcaps to come out of the closet across America on Saturday.
Just a little multicultural encouragement to speed us on our way:
Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ
Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ
Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ
Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ
Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ
In FCS, Southland’s Nicholls State plays #3 Eastern Washington in round 2 on Saturday. Good luck to the Colonels.
In Div II, Slippery Rock will take on Notre Dame (OH) in round three. This, of course, is worth the inconvenience of double- or triple-watching in multimedia to monitor (the game is at the same time as the Big 12 shootout). Go Rock!
Several hundred miles to the southwest on Saturday, our Central Oklahoma (UCO) Bronchos will be taking on Angelo State, from the Lone Star Conference, in the prestigious C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl, being held this year in Waco, Texas. “C.H.A.M.P.S.” stands for “Communities Helping Americans Mature, Progress, and Succeed,” so right away we’re ahead. The bowl franchise in question sponsors two bowls each year, one a junior college bowl and the other for Div II. The pair of bowls, under the label “Heart of Texas,” goes by the acronym HOT Bowl.
There really doesn’t seem to be much more about it, other than its origin in the city of Copperas Cove, so there’s not a lot to go on. But they seem like nice folks, and have a most praiseworthy goal for young people (combating bullying, substance abuse, and suicide), so we’re going to assume we’re fer it.
Before mentioning what everyone must do in Waco, and we know you can probably already guess, we took note of a most interesting fact, which is that one of the big sponsors of the HOT Bowl empire is the Hoffpauir conglomerate, which besides selling all the American cars you could want has a ranch & supply retail outfit, an outdoor superstore, and a pawn & gun, among others. We are just saying.
As for Waco, you will naturally want to watch the game, which will be at Waco ISD Stadium at 4 PM Central. But otherwise, get yourself over to Chip and Joanna’s already, and send field reports on what really goes on at the big Silos complex. We hear there’s a new eatery we’ll want reports on as well.
Texas has been getting clobbered with some rare weather lately, but it looks like the bowl game kickoff will see a very mild 70 or so under mostly sunny skies.
In Div III, our conference tie-ins are out of the action now. We’re expecting big things of this promising Mount Union squad in the quarterfinals tomorrow, however.
Meanwhile, as we’re apparently the last Football Commentary Service on the planet to know (and don’t think we haven’t got the blame worked out for that), our very own U.S. Merchant Marine Academy played Endicott for the NEWMAC title in November and emerged with the crown in a 38-22 victory. Bravo Zulu to the Mariners!